photo by Andrew Hansen
I had the chance to sit down on a pile of pallets with Christopher Denny out back the Tractor Tavern before he took the stage a few nights back. A truly open and honest dude with his heart on his sleeve. He’s definitely endured more than his fair share of struggles along the way, but seems to take on each day one at a time with a dedication and passion for playing music.
His Unique Style
It’s hard not to recognize the unique voice that Christopher has. It’s very distinctive and there’s just something about it that holds an old soul to it. “Finding yourself is hard because its not who you thought you were gonna be. Being different isn’t something you go around talking about. I felt good when people told me I was different, but I didn’t know or think that it’d make me feel better about myself, but it did. I think any type of attention has always been good. You turn on the radio and hear so many of the same things, and from an early age I’ve always enjoyed anything that makes you turn you head or turn it up because it’s different, otherwise it just gets old real quick.”
I asked Christopher where his style stems from and where he drew inspiration from. “I grew up (in Little Rock, Arkansas) listening to 80’s radio with my mom, my dad was a southern rock guy, but my grandma was who I was always around and really got me into music and then my grandpa too. Old country, gospel, my grandma would get me into these quartets, we use to go see Jimmie Davis when he was like 80 years old. The first time I heard Nashville Skyline (Bob Dylan) it was really like whoa, and then the first time I heard Jeff Buckley I was like ‘I don’t like this’ and then I couldn’t stop listening to it and it became a real changing moment.”
“We moved away from Austin, and we really wanted to move up to Pennsylvania. Before we left, we went on this little tour, and it was my first tour back in years, and I’m considering this tour (now) my ‘first’ tour back because that one was just so bad, it was humbling. It’s been a deep dark valley, it’s been tough, really tough, I’m having to remember why I want to do this, but then I got on this tour. After rolling down the road in a tin can which can be beautiful and miserable, you get to the show, your nervous as fuck, you start playing and realize it’s a good deal. You get fulfilled, the crowds boost you up, and the crowds have been really good on this tour, they’ve been really supportive of me as an opener. I’m just getting back to where I’m use to being back on stage again, I wish I had some great story for you, I use to have a bunch of them, but they were drug driven.” I asked Christopher if Tour was kind of his rehab, he said it wasn’t so much his rehab as his new addiction to get him through.
“So much of this has been so many years, where I’m at right now with it is what I’ll talk about, but the path to it, it’s sort of treacherous and painful. But I will say that I’m loving the record (If the Roses Don’t Kill Us), and the more I hear about it, and I’ve read some things that people have written about it, the happier I am with the way we made it. I honestly don’t know how I feel completely, the path was a lot of pain, my father died, my mom’s been in rehab and jail like 5 or 6 times, I went through heroin and methadone, and feeling like the record label were my mortal enemies, and then realizing that they cared. I had to deal with the fact that I’m kind of insane in that I can think someone is out to get me when they’re not. I’ve gotten on some meds for my depression, and realizing that since I’ve been on those, I haven’t just left people, or not paid my rent, and ended up on the street, and that this whole time I really needed that stuff. Also realizing that I’m a little bit broken, wearing sleeves sometimes because I’m embarrassed, and then letting it all hang out, I’ve got scars and a whole lot more on the inside than the outside.”
Christopher talked a bit about the high-caliber talent that was brought in on the record. “My friend PJ Herrington was the manager, and he said ‘I’m gonna put some people together’ and I said ‘I’m just gonna trust ya’ and he got Dave Sanger to produce it (Asleep at the Wheel). Then they just started pulling folks in, and it just happens, you bring real players and you’re good to go. I had a moment when I was playing with Glen Fukunaga (bass – Dixie Chicks & Robert Plant) and he was just so in the pocket, I actually thought he was off, but actually he was just so on. There was also this moment where I was playing these little leads on ‘Radio’ and he just looked over and was looking at me like that’s fucking tasty, and I was just thinking this is awesome. It was cool, this guy’s looking over at me, I’m doing my thing, this guy’s played with some of the best players in the world, and he’s looking over at me and it’s not my voice that he cares about, I’m playing guitar and he’s appreciating it. I didn’t feel like I had to have so much control (on the record) and in doing so I got so much more than I could have asked for.”
Aside from a little bit of time in Twin Falls, ID this was pretty much Christopher’s first time through the Northwest. I asked him a bit about what he thought. “I tell you what, beautiful coming in, those mountains out there, that is gorgeous. Then when you get up here, it’s scary for me to be kind of locked in, sort of like when I’m in Brooklyn, I feel kind of trapped, but you know I’ve realized how small I am, and I can get through all this shit.”